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NKorean official: Purge won't hurt economic policy

By ERIC TALMADGE

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) a¿¿ A senior North Korean official said Sunday that the execution of leader Kim Jong Un's once-powerful uncle will not lead to changes in economic policies and vowed that the nation would push ahead with an ambitious plan to develop new economic zones to attract foreign investment.

Jang Song Thaek's wife, meanwhile, has been named to an ad-hoc state committee, the country's official media reported, an indication that Jang's execution has not immediately diminished her influence.

The execution Friday of Jang, considered to be North Korea's second most powerful man and a key architect of the country's economic policies, should not be taken as a sign that the North will change its economic course or its efforts to lure foreign investment, Yun Yong Sok, a senior official in the State Economic Development Committee, said in an interview with The Associated Press in Pyongyang.

Luring foreign investment is critical to garnering badly needed foreign currency and funding for infrastructure projects so the Kim regime can live up to its promise of raising the impoverished nation's standard of living.

"Even though Jang Song Thaek's group caused great harm to our economy, there will be no change at all in the economic policy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," Yun said. "It's just the same as before."

Jang's sudden purge and execution for allegedly trying to overthrow the government has raised questions about how solid the North Korean regime is and whether it will be able to stay the course on policies aimed at raising the country's standard of living.

Last month, North Korea announced plans to create in each province special economic zones, which are like incubators for introducing capitalist methods into the North's tightly controlled, command economy. The North also recently laid out new laws to facilitate foreign tourism and investment. The laws provide foreign investors with special incentives and guarantees, while giving local leaders greater autonomy to promote themselves and handle business decisions.

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